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HVACR in Turtle Island

From polar bears in the Arctic tundra of Greenland and Canada to the sandy beaches and coral reefs in the Caribbean, North America is the only continent that has every kind of climate. Such varieties in climate have brought about varieties in thought processes for HVACR players, pushing them to develop innovative products that cater to various cooling needs.

| | Jul 9, 2015 | 9:43 am
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The global economic downturn pushed building owners and facilities managers to defer equipment replacements, but with the markets bouncing back, they are gradually unfreezing their budgets. Furthermore, with space heating and cooling accounting for close to 40% of all the energy consumed in the building sector in the United States, there is a pressing need for energy-efficient HVAC equipment. “The current North America HVAC market is about USD 32 billion and is expected to grow in low double digits during the next five years,” says Rakesh Saxena, the General Manager at Trimac Inc.

Market boosters

Dean Wood, Sales and Marketing Manager at Envira-North Systems Limited

Dean Wood, Sales and Marketing Manager at Envira-North Systems Limited

Mark Handzel, Vice President of Product Regulatory Affairs and Director of HVAC

Mark Handzel, Vice President of Product Regulatory Affairs and Director of HVAC

“The primary market driver continues to be energy-efficient technologies that encourage new purchases, which in turn, generate continual operating savings,” says Dean Wood, the Sales and Marketing Manager at Envira-North Systems Limited. Corroborating this is Mike Hicks, the Project Manager at Stanley Consultants, Inc, who says that the concern over climate change has pushed the federal government and other code authorities to reach for ever higher goals regarding sustainability and energy efficiency. “ASHRAE Standard 90.1 has increased requirements incrementally, with each version, which when compounded, increases requirements dramatically,” he says.

Mark Handzel, the Vice President of Product Regulatory Affairs and Director of HVAC commercial buildings at Xylem, says that all of the aforementioned factors, including the Department of Energy’s push for energy efficiency legislation in commercial buildings, combined with recovering North American economies, are ultimately contributing to either upgrades of existing systems for reductions in energy consumption and lower utility bills, or new construction with state-of-the-art systems that boast high-efficiency products and equipment intelligence for smart buildings.

Roadblocks

Mike Hicks, Project Manager at Stanley Consultants, Inc

Mike Hicks, Project Manager at Stanley Consultants, Inc

Having a demand is a good thing, even if it is primarily driven by the government; however, for manufacturers to cater to this need is challenging. Says Hicks, “Energy efficiency goals that are required to achieve savings above ASHRAE Standard 90.1, such as LEED, force the efficiency of systems and equipment to levels that could be very difficult to achieve.”

And after adhering to such changing regulations and standards and developing innovative energy-efficient products, unloading them into the market is another challenge, which essentially translates to customer education. Says Wood, “New technologies continue to evolve, but educating the market on their benefits/applications will always be the key.”

Yet another challenge is the presence of external competitors. Jeff Williams, the Product Manager at Vallourec, remarks that there is an ever-increasing pace of technological growth and competition from Korean and Chinese companies.

Jeff Williams_opt

Jeff Williams, Product Manager at Vallourec

Coping by innovating

The only way to not be bogged down under pressure is to innovate. And to continue innovating. This is what most HVAC manufacturers in North America believe in.

“Designing products to exceed North American efficiency standards – that is, by aligning with EU requirements, without adjusting product footprint is another way companies are innovating in North America,” Handzel says. “This is especially important to provide efficient solutions for retrofit projects in North America, due to the need to update ageing infrastructure or reach carbon emissions requirements.”

He says that making products smarter with more embedded capabilities, such as remote access via Wi-Fi, building management system integration, intuitive system interface and real-time data reporting, will give facility owners/operators more options than they ever had. Furthermore, he remarks, “Ensuring products are flexible to fit any system, and are fast and simple to install are critical benefits that our customers are seeking.”

Similarly, Williams and Wood believe that innovation is the key to success. “R&D is a key factor for developing competitive advantages,” Wood says. “Innovation has been, and remains, crucial to our success.” He also implies that the whole idea of innovation is intrinsic and not under governmental pressure. “Industry standards and regulation don’t necessarily dictate our innovations,” Wood says. “These practices tend to be based on minimum requirements.”

Most North America-based industry players believe in sharing innovative and best practices worldwide, including with the Middle East. Considering that the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy launched the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030, which aims to reduce energy demand by 30% in 2030, there ought to be a demand for North American energy-efficient HVACR products.

The ME-NA connection

The HVAC players of North America have always found the Middle East region a good selling market for HVAC products, given the obvious hot climate in the region. Handzel says: “I think the Middle East is a primary region of focus for most HVAC companies, regardless of whether they are NA-based or global, as Xylem is.” Xylem, he says, is actively ramping up on its capabilities and expanding its presence in the Middle East. “We’re leveraging our capabilities in NA and other regions to launch highly efficient global products that are being localised to fit the needs of our customers around the world.” Wood says that in order to cater to a market not only in the Middle East but also globally, Envira-North adopts a certain corporate philosophy: produce the highest quality product(s), establish a local presence (dealers/distributors) to develop relationships in areas they cannot be physically present, showcase their product(s) capabilities and educate the market on their abilities to produce a return on investment.”

Williams says that it is not just North America but also other continents that view the GCC as an exciting market with a lot of potential for new growth. Vallourec, he says, plans to continue working with partners within the United States and worldwide to develop the market in the GCC, bringing in new products and fostering strong business relationships in the region.

(The United) States of Refrigerants  

James Walters, Vice President (International Affairs) at the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)

James Walters, Vice President (International Affairs) at the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)

A profile of the efforts of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) to work towards low-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants

In an interview with Climate Control Middle East, James Walters, the Vice President (International Affairs) at the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), said that AHRI and its members continued to work with the current US Administration, including the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of State to define a US and global refrigerant strategy. “We are very involved in discussions about the EPA SNAP programme and with the Department of State regarding the proposed North American Amendment to the Montreal Protocol,” he added.

AHRI and its members believe that to productively transition to low-GWP refrigerants, there must be a steady deliberative process that allows decision-makers in the private and governmental sectors and consumers to properly understand the cost, energy efficiency, safety, and operating characteristics of alternative refrigerants. “As important, but often not discussed as much, is the need to educate and train, especially installers and maintenance personnel on the proper storage and handling of alternative refrigerants,” Walters said. “This will require a new, higher level of training.”

Walters said that AHRI and its members have undertaken a comprehensive research programme to identify suitable alternatives for many different applications. Known as the Low-GWP Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (Low-GWP AREP), it is now in its third year and its second phase, which involves testing various alternative lower GWP refrigerants at high temperatures. “This,” he said, “is of particular interest in warm climates, including the MENA region.”


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